'By the semi-mystical appearance of a condom': How young women and men communicate sexual consent in heterosexual situations

Susan E. Hickman, Charlene L. Muehlenhard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

133 Scopus citations


Little is known about how women and men communicate sexual consent. In this study, 378 undergraduate women and men completed a questionnaire designed to examine how they would interpret their date's and their own consent signals in hypothetical scenarios and how they actually communicate consent in heterosexual situations. Although there were no gender differences in ratings of the hypothetical date's behavior, men rated their own behaviors in hypothetical scenarios as more representative of consent than women rated their own behaviors, suggesting that women and men may mean different things when they use the same signals. There were some gender differences in how they conveyed consent in actual situations; furthermore, both women and men reported most often showing their consent to sexual intercourse by making no response. The effect sizes of the gender differences were small. The results suggest that gender-based miscommunications about consent are possible but unlikely. Thus, miscommunication is an unlikely explanation for rape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-272
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Sex Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1999


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Psychology(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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